Victoria woman meets president, first lady at Hanukkah gala
Jennifer Lee Preyss
Dec. 10, 2013 at 6:10 a.m.
Updated Dec. 11, 2013 at 6:11 a.m.
DID YOU KNOW?
• The annual White House Hanukkah Party started Dec. 10, 2001.
• The administration of George W. Bush started the annual gala, which is hosted each year by the president and the first lady.
• In 1979, Jimmy Carter was the first president to officially recognize Hanukkah.
• Bill Clinton was the first president to host a menorah-lighting ceremony in the White House.
• For centuries, Christmas was the only winter holiday recognized by the White House.
Source: Presidential libraries and forward.com
Near a chic, oversized Christmas tree in the east wing of the White House, Margery Loeb prepared to shake hands with President Barack Obama.
It was Dec. 5, the final night of Hanukkah, and Loeb and her daughter, Emily, waited behind a velvet partition near the entrance of the White House Hanukkah Party ballroom.
"The president and Mrs. Obama talked to anyone, and everyone wanted to talk to them personally. It was amazing," said Loeb, of Victoria. "They were so gracious and warm. You were in their home, and they treated you like you were a guest in their home."
Loeb said she visited her daughter last week in Washington, D.C., where she learned they would both be attending the exclusive Hanukkah gala at the White House.
When Obama approached their place in line, Emily, acting chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Justice, introduced her mother to the president and informed him she's from Victoria.
"He just gave me this big smile and a kiss on the cheek," Loeb said.
When it was Loeb's chance to meet Michelle Obama, who was following closely behind, she said her interaction was somewhat more comical.
"I saw her doing pushups on the 'Ellen' show, and I hate to lift weights with my trainer. ... I told her I'm now better about doing my pushups because I saw her doing them on the show," Loeb said. "She just laughed and smiled at me."
Following the introductions, the crowd dispersed for kosher food and drink and a presidential welcome.
Loeb said the event included a menorah lighting, Hanukkah prayers and live music from the U.S. Marine Corps band.
"Coming from such a small town where we're one of a few Jewish families, it was really special to attend a Hanukkah celebration at the White House," Loeb said. "I just felt like Alice in Wonderland or Cinderella."